Lee Rejects Assertion That Cohen Guilty Pleas Should Derail Supreme Court Nomination

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh meets with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a member of the Judiciary Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 18, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – Pushing back on calls from Democrats to postpone Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said there is no connection between the Kavanaugh confirmation process and Michael Cohen’s guilty plea to eight felonies.

Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, told a judge last week that he paid Stormy Daniels and arranged a payment through the National Enquirer to buy-and-kill the affair allegations of Karen McDougal “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” for “the principle purpose of influencing the election” in 2016.

During a town hall meeting last week, a constituent told Lee that Cohen has implicated Trump with his guilty plea and asked the senator if that serves as a reason to slow down the confirmation process for Kavanaugh.

“He has not been charged with any crime. He has not been faced with any impeachment charges, and so I completely disagree with your suggestion,” Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, replied.

“If impeachment charges were filed or if criminal charges were filed, I suppose these arguments might resurface, and I suppose those are arguments that would have to be considered at the time,” he added. “But none of those things have happened and I don’t see any of those things happening anytime soon, and I’m therefore not at all persuaded by your argument that the nomination should somehow be halted.”

Lee referred to Trump as “perhaps the most investigated president in modern history.” When asked why he thinks the “criminality” surrounding Cohen shouldn’t halt the SCOTUS nomination, Lee said Cohen’s charges are “completely unrelated to Kavanaugh.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing should be postponed in light of legal developments in Trump’s orbit.

During a rally outside of the Supreme Court last week, Blumenthal held up the text of Cohen’s guilty plea and said Trump was part of a “conspiracy.” He mentioned that Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have not received documents they requested about Kavanaugh’s time serving in former President George W. Bush’s administration. He argued that Kavanaugh would put “at risk” women’s reproductive rights, workers’ rights and environmental rights as a Supreme Court justice.

“The first fight is to postpone this nomination hearing,” he said at the rally with progressive activists. “We won’t let them push through this nomination while they are concealing these documents.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) referenced the Cohen guilty plea during the rally, saying that Trump was “implicated” in a federal crime.

“Nobody, including the president, is above the law,” she said.

Gillibrand also said Kavanaugh is a “horrible” nominee because “he believes the president is above the law. He believes the president cannot be investigated for any crime while president of the United States, so he is a dangerous nominee for many reasons.”

Kavanaugh said in 2000 of independent counsel Ken Starr’s work, “In the old days, if you had a serious allegation against the president — and there was a common understanding that the president could not be indicted while he was in office — the Congress of the United States would look into the allegation immediately and would get the facts. They can depose witnesses and find out the truth.”

Gillibrand argued that Kavanaugh doesn’t believe in women’s rights or in “our rights to reproductive freedom,” adding that he “doesn’t value women” and “this president doesn’t value women.”

“He wants to criminalize women’s decisions and make sure that states that have already made abortion illegal can continue to do so,” Gillibrand said at the rally.